Wednesday, November 21, 2012

ready or not, Thanksgiving is here

I put my turkey in the oven at 2:00 so I can't really smell it roasting yet. And, no, I don't have the date wrong - we are having our turkey dinner tonight, on Wednesday, instead of tomorrow on Thanksgiving day proper. Last year, Ben and I were all alone for the holiday.  I still wanted to cook a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, even for just the two of us, but it just didn't seem all that festive.  I don't remember which of us proposed it now, but we decided to go out to a Thanksgiving buffet.

I made reservations at a restaurant in Baltimore, we got all dressed up, and drove into the city. It was a warm, sunny day, and we strolled along the inner harbor a bit before we ate.  It seemed strange to see no boats in the water on such a beautiful day. All enjoying their turkey, I guess, and we decided to do the same.  Well, Ben did, anyway.  I think I might have had a bit of everything except turkey from the buffet tables that were piled high with good things to eat.

I won't go into what we ate, but I will say that all of it tasted really good - well, except the raw oysters, which one should probably never eat from a buffet table.  It was so tasty, in fact, that when Julie and Andrew told us they would like to spend Thanksgiving with us this year, we proposed a return trip to the buffet.  Julie doesn't care for roast turkey, so she liked the idea right away, but Andrew, who is a big fan, had to be assured and re-assured that roast turkey and all the trimmings would definitely be on the menu.

So tonight we'll have turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberry sauce and corn and rolls, then we'll have pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  Then we'll either burst or have coronaries, I'm not sure which.   It won't be the same as Thanksgiving at Aunt Louise's house, or even in our house on Grove Avenue when Tom and Julie brought Kristy and Andrew home, and my dad and brother drove down from Elyria with Laura and her pies and photos, but it will be a holiday, all the same.  And we will celebrate it.  That's what families do.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

stock up now

So it's the end of Twinkies, is it?  Well, I have mixed feelings about that.  The fact of the matter is, I can't remember the last time I ate a Twinkie or a Sno-ball or one of those banana things.  We used to have them quite a lot when I was a kid, though.

It would usually be on a weekend when my dad was home, and he would get a hankering for something sweet.  He would give me a couple of bucks and send me (and one of my brothers, if I forced the issue) over to Captain E-Z's on Middle Avenue.  I hated going to Captain E-Z's.  The captain was a sleazy, creepy guy, and he employed sleazy, creepy guys to work for him.  But I digress.  We would walk the block and a half to Captain E-Z's, and buy the two-packs of whatever types of desserts had been requested.  And here's the amazing things about that - two dollars bought enough snacks for the entire family.

I don't remember who always ordered what, but I know that I vacillated between the pink sno-balls and the chocolate cupcakes with the loops of white frosting on top.  I loved those perfect loops, but the spongy, pink coconut stuff on top of the sno-balls was very appealing, as well.  I only had the banana things (Flips?) a couple of times because the fake banana flavor reminded me of the smell of spray paint or nail polish remover.  Yum.

I hear that people are racing out to buy Twinkies et al and stockpile them.  I think that is a great idea - for someone else, that is.  I don't know what the half-life is for those things, but one could literally buy enough to last a lifetime.  That's probably reassuring.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

it's the little things

I loved my grandparents' little house on Shriver Avenue.  I loved it from the front entryway to the varnished, creaking, wooden steps that led to the big, bright basement.  I loved the portrait of my mother in her wedding dress that hung in the living room.   I loved to linger in the hall studying all the small photos of Aunt Helen's graduating class at her nursing school in Chicago.  I loved the small telephone nook in the hallway where they really did keep their telephone.  I loved my Aunt Joanne's flowery, feminine bedroom in the back of the house where the vanity skirt matched the window curtains. I loved my grandma's big, dark bedroom where she kept her treadle sewing machine.  I loved the basement where my grandpa's bed was tucked in a cozy corner, and where a swing hung from the rafters for us grandchildren.

It wasn't that my grandma's house was comfy and warm and welcoming; that was never the case.  I loved it there because it was clean and bright and it smelled good - all things that made it totally different from our house.   Everything had a place, and it was in that place, and that was oddly comforting to me.  I knew that even though months might go by between our visits, the bisque ladies with their frilly petticoats would still be standing atop the big radio in the living room, flanking the portrait of my grandma with her arms around my Aunt Joanne, her youngest (and favorite) daughter.

I knew, most importantly, that the bathroom would be clean and bright, and that the curtains on the bathroom window would be lightly starched, with their tiny pansies lined up in orderly rows.  Not to be indelicate, but many was the time I sat on the toilet there and just gazed at those curtains.  They were so unlike anything in my own home. I loved how the pansies were so neat and predictable in their little rows.  I loved the white shade on the window, its crocheted pull at the end of the cord the first I had ever seen.  It was cool and quiet in my grandma's bathroom, and I was always allowed to close the door - something that wasn't permitted at home.

I got to thinking about all this the other day when I was in my own little bathroom.  Oh, it's nothing like my grandma's, really, but it is clean and bright, although on hot summer days I prefer to keep it cool and dark. I don't have flowered curtains at my window, of course, but if I did, why, then it would be perfect.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

an opinion poll, of sorts

I voted by absentee ballot this year, and I am glad I did.  I have never been good at waiting in line and, sad to say, I have gotten worse as I have gotten older.  But there was a loss of community, a loss of continuity as I sat at my desk in my pjs and completed my ballot.

I can remember going to the polls with both my parents in the mid and late 1950s.  My mother would take me during the day, and my dad would take me in the evening when he got home from work.  Although we lived across the street from the closest polling place (the high school) for some reason our ward had to vote at a small parish hall on Third Street, I believe it was.  So we would walk over there, and if I was lucky, the parent I was with would allow me a few spins on a lonely merry-go-round in a small playground next to the hall.

It seems like it was always cold outside, and the hall felt overheated as we entered wearing our heavy coats.  My parents waited their turns to vote in the wonderful old voting machines with the curtains around them.  I watched, fascinated, as voter after voter entered the booth and closed the curtain, seeing only their legs as they did - whatever it was one did - in that secret place.  Those machines seemed straight out of The Wizard of Oz, and it has since occurred to me that perhaps that is exactly what the movie intended.  ("Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.")  But I digress.  How thrilled I was the first time I entered one of those booths on my own to cast my first vote -  for George McGovern, to be sure.

I can't remember where Ben and I voted when we lived in the apartment on Washington Avenue.  The church across the street?  The American Legion Hall on Gulf Road?  Nope.  Can't remember.  When we lived on Longford, we voted at St. Jude's, and in 1980, Ben and I had to take turns going in to vote, as one of us had to stay in the car with our newborn son while the other voted.  We just couldn't risk exposing him to all those germs that would surely be found in that public place.

When we lived in Eastern Heights, we voted at Eastern Heights, of course.  I loved voting there.  In later years, my walk down the hall to the polling room took me past photos of Tom and Julie and their friends, hung on the wall for their academic excellence.  It was with great pride that I took each of them there twelve years ago to cast their first votes.  (Tom and Julie I mean. Their friends were on their own.)

In Kent, we voted at the shelter house at Fred Fuller Park.  That was a great place to vote.  It was great to vote in Kent, in general, where everyone voted just like me, of course, but it was more than that.  There was always a fire burning in the big fireplace, and I loved that some voters brought in armloads of firewood when they came to vote.  One year I was asked to remove my campaign button from my jacket as I stood in line there.  I thought it was a pricky thing to do, but legally correct, so I removed it.

I think in the near future we will probably be able to vote online, and I am sure I will do so.  But, I tell you, something is lost when parents no longer bring their children to see our democratic process at work, to eagerly await the day when they can vote, just like mommy and daddy.   And I'm not sure being able to vote in one's pjs will make up for that.

Monday, November 5, 2012

we both so excited

Everyone in my family is way more into music than I am.  They will all tell you that.  They are always looking for le dernier cri in musical genres of all kinds while I am content to listen to my Neil tape (as it is called) or the Red Hot Chili Peppers CD that Kristen made for me, over and over again in my car - the only place I listen to music.  But they only think that, really, because they can't hear my interior sound track.  Let me give you an example.

Last week while Julie and Andrew were staying with us - because Hurricane Sandy knocked their power out early and it stayed out - I lost one of my hoop earrings.  It was not the fault of Julie or Andrew or Hurricane Sandy, that is simply when it happened.  I had a sense that I had lost it in my bedroom, and looked around quite a bit in there, but didn't find it anywhere.  I took the other earring out of my ear and put it on my dresser, thinking as I did so, "every time I see this sitting here, I will probably think it is the lost earring".  And that was the case, until several days later when I wised up and put the lonely earring in a small covered dish that is a piece (the powder jar) of my antique dresser set.

I looked around the house in a desultory manner over the next few days, not finding the lost earring, but finding a quarter in between the couch cushions among the dust and crumbs.  I was encouraged that I didn't find the earring mangled and bent after Katie found it somewhere and chewed it all up, but I was sad that it was gone because those earrings were expensive, damnit.

Then, yesterday, as I was changing my bed, I spotted the missing earring at the foot of my bed, underneath the bench where I sit to tie my shoes.  I know it wasn't there before because, of course, that was one of the places I looked.  I didn't care, however, and quickly picked up the earring and opened the powder jar to place it with its mate.  And do you know what song played in my head as I did so?  "Reunited, and it feels so good...."  I love that.